Its almost impossible to comprehend at a distance of 50 years just how popular the TV series Dad’s Army was. The show initially expected that it would appeal to people who had lived through the second world war, bear in mind that this was people in their 40’s and 50’s when the show was released in 1968. However, the 70’s were a period when whole families sat down to watch together to watch in real time and the combination of catchphrases and easily identifiable characters proved popular from ages 8 to 80.
The war was still very present in our minds, it was highly possible that your next door neighbour could have been in a Japanese prisoner of war camp or the green grocer could have been wounded at Dunkirk. Things were still a bit raw, but Dad’s Army softened the blow by basically being about a load of old blokes in South England, Dad’s Army being the popular term for the Home Guard which was comprised mainly of people too old for regular combat but still with some responsibilities for the defence. From Hancock to The Office, British comedy has revelled in the character with ideas above their station and Dad’s Army, especially their leader Captain Mainwaring were similarly deluded in their role in the grand scheme.
Having watched a tribute a few years back I could only identify one actual joke (“dont tell him Pike”) in the entire series. I’m sure there were more but most of the comedy relied on knowing the characters and how they would react which, let’s face it’ is pretty much the basis of a good sitcom.
One of the core characters– there were about 7 or 8 of them, was Corporal Jones played by Clive Dunn. Proud owner of two significant catch phrases (“don’t panic” and “they don’t like it up them”) Jones was an ex-soldier from the Boer War where he had fought the “fuzzy wussies” (yep) and a current butcher.
Its fair to say that all characters had their fans but Jones/Dunn increased his public profile significantly in 1970 by releasing a hit single. Apparently, Dunn had met Bassist Herbie Flowers, star of last weeks post, at a party and asked if he could write him a hit single. Flowers rose to the challenge although he also had to engage the services of one-time Creation vocalist Kenny Picket. Apparently Flowers was struggling to find a suitably catchy melody when someone rang his doorbell. The interval in the doorbell chimes provided the inspiration he needed- you can hear it on the word Grandad time and time again throughout the song. Flowers managed to squeeze a bit more cash out of the song by playing Tuba on it (presumably at standard session rates)
With slight irony, Dunn had been one of the younger cast members who was acting a lot older, as Grandad hit number one Dunn was reaching his 51st birthday. He had now established himself as a lovable old man and went on to have his own children’s TV show Grandad for a while. Flowers would go on to write more sophisticated music with his band Sky but Grandad was to prove his pension pot.
In Norfolk we always felt we had a special relationship with Dad’s Army as they would regularly decamp to Thetford in the south of the county for a few days of location filming. The series seems to have been on repeat play on the BBC for decades. I really can’t imagine it resonates with the youth but it harks back to gentler times (the 70’s not the WWII which apparently was quite violent) which is nice to remember for us older folk.
Grandad is still awful and most of us have forgotten about it.